I've done that. I have been 6 times and have 6 "finisher" (ha ha) medals.
Once it was very hard to get into, very hard. Now they let most anyone in.
For me the cost of the trip was also way over the top. My first year, did not book a room, just showed up hoping for the best.
My experience with the people of Boston has been 10 star. They liked my accent, I told them I was from Mayberry.
Back in the day you had to go under 2:50, and that is a hard task for any older guy with average talent, a full time job, wife, etc.
Back then, runners I knew had heard of guys who had run Boston, but did not know one.
In Jan 1981 after one year of jogging, I ran my first Marathon in Charlotte in 3:07. I was a fat, drunk, beginning runner. I made it to the barn before my experienced friends due to patient pacing. When they all ran off from me in the early miles, fear held me back. That fear of the Marathon has never left me, and served me well over the years.
At a party later, I had a few too many, and proclaimed I was going to Boston.
People laughed, but I was serious. I had to find 18 minutes. I had no real life at that time, no goals or ambitions of any type.
I went to the library and read. No computer then. Books by George Sheehan and Marty Liquori became my coaches. George took care of my mind, and Marty gave me training principles. I scaled back the workouts in Liquori's book for "real runners" to fit my old ass.
I formed a long range plan and stayed with it month after month with one goal in mind --> BOSTON!
At night in bed I would read and re-read George to maintain motivation through the pain of bad knees and busted arches.
My assault for 2:49:59 was scheduled for the Marine Corps Marathon in Fall 1982.. Being kinda anal, I had mapped every mile and more a hundred times. No computer then, just drew graphs of training and adjusted. Marty's plan for 10K is what I used, but scaled back to my level. I guess I had an advantage over people now. The internet is handy, but 99% full of crap advice. I had George and Marty who were time tested. Over later years I met George many times and had a lot of beer with him. I have never yet met Marty, but I still feel I can call him "Marty".
Several friends as well as my Bride made the trip to DC. Only the Bride believed I could (or should even attempt) to pace that fast. No matter, I was there to go for it.
I locked into my "trained for" pace to hit each 5 miles at 32 minutes. (6:24 pace). Marathons are easy at first, but they get harder each mile. By half way you are in pain and things are looking bad. By 20, all hope is lost. At least that has always been my experience. If your training is flawed, you will lack confidence that you "can" maintain in pain. It is never about making your mind up on race day after the pain hits, but months back during harder training days. You cannot "will" yourself in the Marathon once physical failure hits.
Around 22 miles I had a bad spot and hallucinated some (dehydration). All around me in the air was my Mom. I could not see her, but she was surely there. I was in an unknown place as to pain. Feeling her presence made me feel safe and saved my race. I know that is corny, but it is what happened.
I then refused to listen to my body which wanted to break pace. I had little margin for error. I was hanging on. I had done too much hard work for too many months to do less than hold on or drop dead. Going past the Pentagon around 23 miles I came up on a guy, and on the back of his shirt was "I don't know Hell, but I can see it from here".
By then many were walking in. Many, many who had been ahead of me to this point were now walking.
My bad spot had passed, and I knew I was headed to the barn. It was an incredible high when that realization hit me.
I came in at 2:46 and all I could think about was "I just earned a number to Boston".